Race Card: Will Memphis

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Memphis is in the midst of a pregnancy crisis. At one city school—Frayser High—about 18 percent of female students are expecting or have recently given birth. There, the pregnancy rate is a whopping 26 percent, and in Memphis generally the teen pregnancy rate ranges from 15 to 20 percent—nearly double the U.S. average.

Now, the astronomically high pregnancy rate in majority black Shelby County, which includes Memphis, has sparked public outcry as well as an initiative called "No Baby!" run by Girls Inc. For decades, Girls Inc. has aimed to help Memphis girls improve their self-esteem. But its "No Baby!" campaign—slated to kick off Jan. 20—may do little to curb the high teen pregnancy in the Memphis area. Why? Because the campaign promotes abstinence only, according to AOL's Black Voices.

Moreover, "No Baby!" won't provide contraceptives to girls "but will give teens the proper tools on how to protect themselves should they decide to engage in sexual relations," Black Voices reports.

But if the initiative is focused mostly on abstinence, will the information teen girls receive on avoiding pregnancy be limited? That's my fear. It's also troublesome that girls won't receive contraceptives such as condoms considering that at now notorious Frayser High, nearly 100 percent of students qualify for free lunches. In other words, these kids are poor. They likely have no spare cash to spend on contraception.

If the Memphis community is really serious about curbing the high pregnancy rate, it needs to face reality. And the reality is that the teens there are having sex without taking steps to avoid pregnancy. That being the case, how is the launch of a program that encourages abstinence only and offers no contraception to poor teens going to help matters?

When Terrika Sutton, a Frayser High student who recently gave birth, was asked what should be done to combat teen pregnancy at the school, she said, "They need a class where they can teach girls before they get pregnant to use protection and stuff..."

A common misperception about communities of color is that attitudes towards sexuality are relaxed, when, in fact, they're fairly conservative. Girls in these communities typically receive an abstinence-only message from their parents and other elders. Conversations about birth control methods between youths and their parents are all too frequently nonexistent. That's why an initiative to prevent pregnancy must do more than repeat a "no sex" message.

by Nadra Kareem Nittle
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10 Comments Have Been Posted

No Longer supporting "Girls Inc."

I am clearly outraged, that Girls Inc., an organization always considered to be "progressive," is behind a campaign that is "abstinence only." "Abstinence only" IS NOT "strong, smart and bold," as their slogan implies. This is clearly wrong for them and I am personally not giving them any more of my $ until they advocate that strong, smart and bold women consider realistic reproductive options besides abstinence.

I don't think this as bad as it seems...

I was as worried as you folks about this program, but upon closer inspection of the site, I noticed that they DO offer a list of places for youth to go to get free or very inexpensive birth control. I know that yes, they do seem to place abstinence above all else on the site, but I think we would be seriously insulting the intelligence of teens to assume they aren't smart enough to navigate the site to find out where they can get free protection.
Could this particular program be better? Absolutely. Do I think it would be as effective as actively teaching proper sex education and handing out condoms? No, I don't. But is this a step in the right direction? I'd like to say yes.

Did any of you actually go

Did any of you actually go the website and check it out?

"we strive to provide more than just a doctrine of abstinence or contraceptives. Our approach is to assist and raise awareness of holistic health learning environments where participation can lead to better grades, better health and less risk of teen pregnancy."

This isn't another abstinence only campaign. This is about helping young girls see the importance of an education, proper health, and the ABILITY to say no. It's about creating strong young woman. Or at least that's how it looks.

Too poor?

The concept that young teens don't have money to buy condoms is just bull. Providing access to condoms is great, we should keep doing it, all over the place, but what we need to change is the perception of condoms. We've gotten to a place where the pill is given out like candy and men expect a woman to be on it. "Because condoms don't feel good." This is unacceptable to me. You know what doesn't feel good? Labor and child support. We also need to talk about how condoms are the most reliable and safe form of contraceptive for people without a steady partner (as teens are).

Agreed -- I don't think money

Agreed -- I don't think money is the issue, when Planned Parenthood often gives out free condoms, as No Baby points out on their website.

Where does Black Voices say that No Baby is abstinence only?

I agree with those above who point out that the No Baby website actually does promote contraception. And where on the Black Voices website do they say that No Baby promotes abstinence over contraception?

I'd love to see a correction/update to this article that addresses these issues. Otherwise I think this is poor reporting, sensationalizing the very issue that No Baby is trying to address and misrepresenting what may be a very useful program.

Black Voices/Abstinence

<p>If you look six paragraphs from the end of the Black Voices article
(which is linked to in my post), it says:

<em></em></p><p><em>"No Baby!" will only encourage abstinence and not provide contraceptives...</em></p>

I interperted AOL's statement differently...

I agree with the above comments that No Baby! is actually doing a great thing and makes it very easy for girls to find ways to protect themselves. Of course an organization like Girls Inc. can't always have the means to hand out birth control and condoms on their own, but they are choosing the next best option. They are supplying the girls with information! That is what I took from the following sentence which was quoted from the sixth paragraph in AOL's aritcle:

"No Baby!" will only encourage abstinence and not provide contraceptives but will give teens the proper tools on how to protect themselves should they decide to engage in sexual relations.

Thats exactly what Girls Inc. is doing. They are giving the girls the tools they need. Personally, it took me two clicks to find the phone number, map, and directions to three different places in the area with free contraceptives. It really seems outrageous to state that this organization is abstinence only.

As a society, of course we

As a society, of course we want to create strong girls who can "just say no" but even for adult women, a sexual partner's coaxings can put a lot of pressure on a situation. As mentioned above, many boys/men insist on going protection free. We spend so much time focusing on girls (as we should) but when will there be a program, a movement on a large scale, to teach young men "proper sexual conduct" and to "just say no" and be aware of the consequences of their actions. Of course, young men aren't stupid, they know that they can get a girl pregnant, but are they shamed for doing so? No, because as has been the case for all of time, men are expected to sow their oats.

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